Reading is the method of looking at printed symbols and letters and understanding their meaning of them.

Sometimes, it can be possible to decipher the meaning of writing without identifying all the words; this is most common when reading someone’s handwriting, which might be messy. You can still make out the main point of what they’re saying, but it’s difficult or impossible to recognize some words.

You can also identify words without understanding their meaning of them. It can happen when you encounter a new term that you’ve never seen before. It’s possible to decode it and sound it out, but the only way to make meaning from it is to look at the context in which the word is used or to look up the definition of it in a dictionary or on the Internet.

Reading fluency brings word recognition and comprehension together. It’s the last primary skill that’s needed to be able to read. Fluency allows you to read smoothly without getting stuck on your words. It can take a lot of time and practice for many readers to become completely fluent. Some teachers may use echo reading to help children develop stronger fluency. Even then, some texts can take advantage of our need for fluency by adding extra spaces that make us pause.

Overall, reading involves using the skills of word recognition, comprehension, and fluency together.

Why is Reading Important?

Reading is a receptive skill that allows us to receive information. So as you’re reading this now, you should (hopefully) be receiving information and learning something new (or reinforcing what you already know).

Reading gives you access to a wealth of information that wasn’t accessible before. As a result, you can learn and discover new things and widen your vocabulary.

Reading also allows us to access stories from around the world. Stories help shape children (and adults), and they’ve proven to make us more empathetic. Reading stories lets us step into somebody else’s shoes and show us a new perspective of the world that we might have never seen or even considered.

Reading isn’t just crucial for enjoying literature (though being able to read novels and poems is a benefit!). It helps in every aspect of life.

For children in school, reading is essential for every subject, not just English. For example, in maths, reading is vital to understanding word problems. In science, you need to be able to read and comprehend the instructions before you begin an experiment.

Beyond education, reading is essential for everyday life. We read all the time without even realizing it. We read road signs, instructions, and packaging on food; words are everywhere!

How Can Children Learn to Read?

Children can learn to read as young as three or four. Then, of course, they build up their skills of word recognition, comprehension, and fluency as they grow, but what exactly does this involve?

Word Recognition

Word recognition is the first reading skill that children learn, usually through phonics and the DfE’s Letters and Sounds program.

  • Children learn to break apart words and sound them out into phonemes. For example, the term ‘cat’ has three phonemes: c-a-t.
  • They learn about the relationship between letters and sounds, such as which letters make which sounds when we say them out loud.
  • Next, they learn how to decode words. Decoding is when children encounter a new term and sound it out to learn how to pronounce it.
  • Children also learn to analyze words and recognize spelling patterns (or graphemes) to help them say longer words. For example, the term ‘sunflower’ contains the words ‘sun’ and ‘flower.’
  • Sight vocabulary is also developed at this stage. It is the number of words that children can recognize automatically. These are usually short words that are used often, such as ‘the’ or ‘and.’


Comprehension builds on the foundations of word recognition. Now that children can read and recognize words aloud, they need to understand what they mean individually and when used in conjunction with other words.

  • Understanding context can significantly help with reading comprehension so children start to develop their background knowledge of various topics. For example, ‘I go to school where there are teachers and other children.’
  • A crucial part of comprehension is developing a wide and varied vocabulary. Children should learn the meanings of as many words as possible and how they link together. For example, they might discover a variety of words for describing the weather: sunny, snowy, windy, rainy, stormy.
  • Comprehension also involves learning about the types of texts that we might read and how we identify them. Traditional tales, for example, often begin with Once upon a time and end with a happily ever after.
  • The various purposes of reading are learned at this stage too. For example, children will learn that if they want to know facts about Ancient Egypt, they should pick up a fact file or non-fiction history book.
  • Finally, children will learn how to construct meaning from a text and what to do if they can’t. For example, if they finish reading a passage from a book but don’t quite grasp what they’ve read, they’ll learn to slow down and reread the passage. They’ll also know to look up new words in a dictionary to find out what they mean – expanding their vocabulary further.


Fluency comes with practicing and polishing all the skills they’ve learned. To be fluent, children should:

  • be accurate with their word recognition;
  • develop a large vocabulary of sight words;
  • learn to read at a faster pace while still maintaining comprehension;
  • add expression when they read aloud.

Because reading fluency takes a lot of practice, children need to be motivated and shown what reading can do for them.

Fluency and Accuracy in Reading

Fluency comes with practicing and polishing all the skills they’ve learned. To be fluent, children should:

  • be accurate with their word recognition;
  • develop a large vocabulary of sight words;
  • learn to read at a faster pace while still maintaining comprehension;
  • add expression when they read aloud.

Because reading fluency takes a lot of practice, children need to be motivated and shown what reading can do for them.

As well as this, there are some strategies you can use to help children build fluency and accuracy in their reading. Here are some tips we’ve gathered that will guide you and inspire you.

  • Pay attention to Phonics: This point is key to children developing a fluent, accurate way of reading. Phonics breaks words down to the individual sounds of each syllable, phonemes. Children can see how the sounds work together by looking at words and the sounds they’re made up of close up like this. Once they understand this, they can step back and think about how all the words in a sentence should flow together; this is how fluent reading will develop over time, as children become comfortable and familiar with the sounds that make up words.
  • Strengthen decoding skills: This is one of the basic skills that, when fully strengthened, will help your child read fluently and accurately; this builds on what we’ve already said about Phonics, as children need to be able to understand all the small sections of each word and attach a sound to them; this is what decoding is all about. You can help your child improve their decoding skills through activities like air writing, matching images with sounds, and working on spelling.
  • Read out loud: Another significant way of developing fluency with reading is to read out loud as much as possible. Not only will this help you monitor how your child is progressing with reading, but it will also help children experiment with things such as expression, intonation, speed, and volume, all critical factors that influence fluency. In addition, reading aloud encourages fluency to develop, as it’s a more tangible way of practicing reading than simply reading in silence.
  • Try out audiobooks: This is a convenient idea to have up your sleeve! Audiobooks are everywhere and more accessible than ever, meaning that even if you don’t have a spare moment to read with your child, their fluency and accuracy skills can still be strengthened. With audiobooks, you can also choose short sections to replay so your child can focus on a short piece of whatever they’re reading.
  • Use echo reading: This is a beneficial guided reading strategy that can help a lot with children’s fluency and accuracy; this gives you a chance to model what fluent reading sounds like for your child when you first read the book. Try first to read the entire book so that children aren’t focused on the story when they come to practice. Then, choose shorter sentences or phrases to read aloud to them, making sure you point to where you’re reading. Once you’ve finished a particular section, ask them to copy you exactly; this gives children a precious opportunity to model your example, giving them insight into how things like expression, intonation, speed, and volume can help them read fluently and accurately.
  • Emphasize phrases: Something that many children struggle with when it comes to fluency is too many pauses between words, or even sometimes not enough! Children will begin to develop a natural reading rhythm by placing lots of emphasis on phrases. For instance, if the first part of a sentence is before a comma in the middle, then the words at the beginning of the sentence would need to be grouped. There would be fewer pauses between these words as they rely on each other to make up the phrase. Where there is a comma, you can take a more extended break. By reading in terms of words like this, you can model things like intonation and speed that contribute to fluent reading.

How to encourage students to read

For some children, the passion for reading develops at a young age and never leaves them. Others may enjoy reading at a young age but begin to pick up a book less as they get older and find other distractions. And many, they’re not afraid to say they don’t enjoy reading!

More often than not, however, children who say they do not like to read have been put off in some way or another by a bad experience of reading.

  1. Fill their world with books
    The more books and different genres you have available for your children, the more likely they will find something that interests them! You can ask your class what books they like, and if they say “none,” do not fear – ask them probing questions about their interests.
  2. Be a reading role model
    To encourage students to read, we must lead by example and show them what a good reader looks like. So when you set a reading hour with your class, join in with them! They need to see how enjoyable and enriching reading can be, and you can use this time to share your thoughts on what you’re reading and encourage them to do the same.
  3. Embrace World Book Day
    Chances are your school already celebrates World Book Day, so this is an excellent opportunity to take your class to town and inspire them to love books and reading! Encourage dress-up and plan activities that help throw your pupils into their favorite fictional worlds.
  4. Implement movement in your reading hours.
    It can be difficult for children to sit quietly for long periods, and forcing this on them is less likely to make them suddenly enjoy reading. So why not offer a chance of movement to break up quiet, independent reading hours by asking them to act out critical elements of a book chapter? It is an excellent way for students to analyze chapters and pick out important information.
  5. Invite students to socialize around reading.
    Book clubs and reading groups provide excellent opportunities for students to communicate with each other about what they’re reading and share their thoughts and ideas.
  6. Assign a reading log.
    When you encourage students to read, it can be a good idea to ask them to keep track of their reading and progress. Then, you can encourage them to write down any questions they stumble upon while reading, and you can invite them to air these questions with their class in a mainly allocated slot. It is a great way to open up a dialogue about reading.
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